A local military legend unveiled his new statue and vets saluted the Battle of Midway.
SAN DIEGO — In Balboa Park, a local military legend unveiled a statue bearing his likeness, and hours later on the USS Midway, veterans and their families commemorated the World War II battle for which the aircraft carrier was named.
One of the events Saturday honored retired Brig. Gen. Robert L. Cardenas while the other paid tribute to the Battle of Midway. Participants at both ceremonies also recognized another important military milestone: D-Day, the 71st anniversary of the massive Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France.
Cardenas, 95, revealed a bust of himself at the Veterans Memorial Garden, with help from the sculptor, Richard Becker of Poway.
Cardenas, a World War II and Vietnam veteran, served in the Army Air Forces and flew more than 80 aircraft in his 34-year career. He was shot down over Germany in 1944 and had to swim to safety in Switzerland. He later served as a commander of the Air Force Special Operations Force.
He made history as command pilot of the B-29 that launched Chuck Yeager’s Bell X-1 into supersonic flight. Cardenas later helped orchestrate the opening of the cemetery at Miramar.
Later Saturday, Navy leadership hosted the 73rd anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Midway. Retired Vice Adm. James Zortman, who commanded Naval Air Forces from 2004 to 2007, was to deliver the keynote address.